Tunisia: Workers facing repression as crisis deepens

photo: Yassine Gaidi / ANADOLU AGENCY / Anadolu Agency via AFP

The ITUC has expressed serious concern over acts of anti-union repression by the authorities under the control of Tunisian President Kais Saied.

The country has faced a growing crisis since Saied dismissed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and seized absolute power last year, with growing poverty and unemployment along with mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since 25 July, Saied has banned parliament from sitting and assumed legislative power himself.

On 13 January, public television workers striking against the refusal of the authorities to renew their collective agreement were surrounded by a large police squadron and subjected to interrogation. Some of the workers were then forced to broadcast programmes in an attempt to break the strike.

The next day, the tenth anniversary of the revolution that deposed the dictator Ben Ali, tens of thousands of demonstrators marching in protest against the government were met with violence meted out by thousands of police, including tear gas, water cannon and physical beatings. Several were brutally arrested, and some remain in detention facing charges.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC general secretary, said: “The hope that sprang from Tunisia’s revolution is being dashed by the autocratic behaviour of the president. Having refused repeated requests from the trade union centre UGTT to work together on the problems facing the country, he has resorted to violent repression. The UGTT played a vital role in the revolution and has continued to do so ever since. The ITUC stands with the UGTT and its members and will do all we can to support them, to stop the repression and to ensure that the country does not simply bend to the diktats of the IMF, which would only increase poverty and unemployment.”